“Been there… done that…” Monday Meditation. 6/15/20. Alan Neale.
Trinity Church, Newport, RI
Mark 6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
This is the second and final part of a meditation on the first six verses of Mark chapter 5. The first part largely focused on the pattern that Jesus sets us for healthy, functional and growing life both physically as well as mentally and spiritually. And, in the first part of the meditation, we saw the overwhelming importance of teaching in the ministry of Jesus; it was, it is, by His teaching that women and men are set free within their spirits and enjoy liberty in their thinking.
Today I first want to point out the fickleness of the human spirit – in verse 2 those who heard him were amazed (so stunned, the word suggests, that their mouths gaped open in awe) but then, verse 3, these same people take offense at Jesus. Here the word Mark uses indicates that the people somehow felt that they had been trapped, hoodwinked, scammed by this peripatetic teacher. And then, finally (well, at least for the moment) the crowd exhibit such a lack of faith that even Jesus finds himself amazed. Surely it has to take something of significant moment for Jesus to be amazed or “to be astonished out of one’s senses”?
I want you to remember that such people presented themselves to Jesus throughout his earthly ministry and, yes, not only outside the coterie of the twelve disciples! And Jesus’ constant response was to mark what was happening but then speak and act with a love and a grace that was transformative and empowering. We are such fickle people and our “fickleness” can be ignited as much by the angst and isolation of this pandemic as well as by the proverbial shoe-lace that breaks even as we were already late for an appointment. For some reason I imagine that water container of the downstairs humidifier as I take upstairs to the sink… as much as I try, that water slops and slurps from side to side causing spillage and extra work. So it is with so many of us so much of the time and that is why we must be intentional in finding/creating/nurturing those oases in which we can be settled, serene and calm.
I want you also to note that when Jesus speaks of/recognizes their unbelief, the word does not immediately suggest a creedal faith, a propositional faith but rather looks deeper into the heart; deep into the heart where, for a variety of reasons throughout our lives, we have tended to think it is better to be cautious and hesitant about trusting another. The one who has been often abandoned will find it no easy task to surrender readily to another, to the Lord; it can be done, it is done but it is a process that, from time to time, will suffer relapse.
Oh dear, time advances. In verses 3-4 the people become suspect of this teacher because they have known his family and they know him. And so Jesus makes that famous comment, “A prophet is without honor except in his own country” – in other words “familiarity breeds contempt”. The dynamic for such an experience is multi-faceted… maybe it comes from a negative self-image, maybe it comes from jealousy, maybe it comes from a dullness of the senses due to repetition. Whatever the cause, we here are warned not to take the love and care of those around us for granted; be thankful, say the words. And as with our earthy companions so also with out God… “O Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good”. “God is Good. All the time. God is God… thank you God.”
Verse 5 presents to me one of the most intriguing and worrisome verses in the Bible… “he could do no great work there because of their unbelief” (more explicit in Matthew 13:58).
Lord I am amazed that you call me to be a cooperative partner in Kingdom building; please help me be faithful and grow in faith and trust and dependence upon You. Amen